Malaysians are completely shocked that after all the hullaboo over Malaysia's “New Economic Model”, the Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has directly awarded of a sports betting license to Berjaya Group helmed by Vincent Tan.Malaysians are shocked because the Prime Minister has been harping on a new model of doing business in Malaysia whereby government business will be more transparent and competitive, and Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak has even promised Malaysians that he will no longer “tolerate rent-seeking and patronage” in his speech when launching the “New Economic Model”.
Within 2 months of his “earth-shaking” launch, Datuk Seri Najib has sounded the death knell to his own “New Economic Model”, by thrashing it into the rubbish dump by awarding the most lucrative multi-billion concession of the year to a well-known associate of BN top leadership, Tan Sri Vincent Tan.
Worse, it was done in the most opaque manner possible where there are no calls for proposals, no open tenders or auctions for the sports betting license! On what merit was Tan Sri Vincent Tan awarded this multi-billion gaming concession which will not only enrich him, but impoverish the rakyat by encouraging more gambling?
The non-Muslims community are already extremely unhappy with the excessive number of “special draws” by the existing gaming companies, including Berjaya Sports Toto. Now with legalised sports betting, it will only lead to greater social problems, mounting debt among those who are addicted to gambling.
But more importantly, the award of the new sports betting license together with the cronyistic award of mega projects to Naza TTDI to build Malaysia's RM628 million largest exhibition and convention centre in exchange for a piece of land worth up to RM1.5 billion, the likely award of a 3,000 acres piece of land to MRCB, a RM320 million 20-year interest free unsecured loan to SYABAS has proven beyond doubt that the New Economic Model is utter bunkum.
The rakyat are angry because they are being taken for a ride by the Prime Minister who has promised many changes but he has instead shown that the Barisan Nasional government is completely incapable of change. The practice of cronyism, rent-seeking and patronage to vested interest parties is continuing is broad daylight with complete endorsement by Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak. The Prime Minister's promise of 'open tender', 'merit' and fair competition
We call upon the Barisan Nasional government to immediately withdraw the award of the betting concession and set up a special Parliamentary Select Committee to review the impact of sports betting on Malaysians, and if and only if approved, then a open, transparent and competitive tender or auction must be called to ensure transparency and best “value for money” for the Government and Malaysians.
* Tony Phua Kiam Wee DAP National Publicity Secretary & MP for Petaling Jaya Utara